The A-Z of Indian Superfoods: Papaya

Whether you are eating it green or ripe, papaya is chock-full of benefits, be it for digestion or your skin. Find out how this fruit can do wonders for your health, the potential risks, and the various ways you can use it.

By Sahajiya Halder
17 Oct 2021

Papaya, also known as papaw, is a tropical and subtropical fruit of the plant Carica papaya. With origins likely in Mexico and Central America, the vibrant papaya fruit is not only refreshingly delicious but also packed with highly beneficial nutrients. Versatile in nature, papayas can be consumed both in its green and ripe forms. Low in calories but high in fibre, this fruit is a very rich source of Vitamin C, as well as Vitamin A, folate and potassium, among others.



Benefits Of Papaya

1. Can Protect Against Cell Damage and Inflammation: Papaya has immunity-boosting qualities. The presence of antioxidants such as Vitamin C and carotenoids in papaya makes it helpful in protecting against cell damage from oxidative stress. A clinical trial published in the British Journal of Nutrition showed that carotenoids are more easily available from papaya than tomatoes and carrots. Papaya can also reduce inflammation in the body. These properties may help with health issues such as cancer. A review in Scientific African showed that extracts of various parts of papaya show anti-tumour activity in cases of liver cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, and so on.

2. Can Aid In Digestion: The high fibre and water content in papaya can be very beneficial for people with constipation. Moreover, the enzyme papain, because of its ability to break down protein, can help with digestion, and is used to tenderise meat. A study published in Food Chemistry showed that the enzyme caricain in papaya can help mitigate problems related to coeliac disease due to its ability to detoxify gliadin (a component of gluten) in wholewheat flour. A study on rats in the Journal of Integrative Medicine showed that extract of papaya seed can inhibit the effects of peptic ulcers.

3. Can Benefit Your Heart Health: The fibre and potassium content of papaya makes it beneficial for heart health. Moreover, both Vitamin C and lycopene present in papaya have cardioprotective effects.

4. Can Help In Regulating Blood Sugar: A study published in Preventive Medicine demonstrated that short-term supplementation of a fermented papaya preparation can be helpful in the management of diabetes. The antioxidants in papaya are also effective in regulating blood sugar—a review in Nutrition & Metabolism presented that there are significant anti-diabetic effects of dietary flavonoids—something papaya is rich in.

5. May Be Beneficial For Your Skin: Vitamin C plays an important role in collagen production, and can thus affect signs of skin ageing. A study in Photochemical and Photobiological Sciences showed that dietary carotenoids can contribute to lifelong protection against the damage caused by UV rays.

6. Has Antimicrobial Properties: A review article in the International Journal of Food Properties presented that papaya leaf and its extract can be used to treat malaria and ameliorate dengue fever. Dried papaya seeds can be useful against intestinal parasites, according to a trial in the Journal of Medicinal Food.

7. May Be Useful For Reducing Menstrual Pain:
A study published in Belitung Nursing Journal suggested that papaya leaf extract can reduce menstrual pain.

How To Use Papaya

1. Make a refreshing summer fruit salad with ripe papaya, mango and pineapple.

2. Add it to your smoothie.

3. Green papaya, because of its meat tenderising quality, is an excellent addition to red meat stews.

4. A popular Southeast Asian dish is green papaya salad. Som Tam, a Thai dish, is a delicious and easy recipe that can liven up your meals. In a mortar and pestle, pound garlic and chillies. Add palm sugar and long beans and mash them further. To this, add lime juice and fish sauce (soya sauce is a vegetarian alternative) and mix it well. Finally, add halved cherry tomatoes and shredded green papaya (peeled and deseeded) and toss it thoroughly. You can also add roasted peanuts.



5. Instead of tomato, papaya can make a good base for salsa.

6. Use it to make halwa.

7. Dried, ground papaya seeds can be used as a black pepper alternative.

8. Papaya can also be used as an ingredient for DIY face packs. Combine mashed ripe papaya with things such as honey and milk for a moisturising mask for dry skin.

Things To Keep In Mind

Papaya can be a source of allergy for some people. Unripe papaya contains a significant amount of latex, so individuals with a latex allergy should exercise caution or avoid consumption altogether. Papaya, especially unripe or semi-ripe, may also cause uterine contractions, so consult your physician about whether you should have papaya during pregnancy. Overconsumption may also lead to digestive issues because of its laxative properties. Very high doses of papaya seeds in some animal studies have shown adverse effects on fertility and sperm count.

The above information has been verified by Dr Lakshmi K, Ph.D Food Science & Nutrition, University of Georgia (USA), Head Nutritionist, URLife


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